The night of the Average Joes special was exciting for most people, but for me it was heartbreaking in too many ways. The main problem was my forty-year-old mother appearing as one of the one hundred candidates that Joey had the opportunity to select. She survived the first cut and was still around when the show switched from broadcast to cable, but to this day I have to thank whatever god of luck she worshipped that she did not become part of the final twenty-five.
I had not watched that night, although I was one of the few people who knew what the special would be about ahead of time. Mother had signed some kind of non-disclosure agreement, but felt that she had to warn my sister and me about what might be shown; as she was positive our friends would talk about it later. I was attending high school and three months away from graduation, while Sara was a sophomore at the same school. As the show was live and being shot in New York City, mother wanted us to be aware of what might happen and ready for phone calls from friends and relatives. As it happened, Sara and I kept quiet about the whole thing so it was definitely a surprise to our grandparents when mother walked into the room as part of the initial group of women.
Some of my friends did see the show and of course, several had to laugh about how attractive my mother was. Many suggested that if she was truly unhappy about being single, they could take care of her, but I just shook my head and ignored them. Mother was actually quite happy working for the television station in our small town, and had never complained about needing more attention. Her appearance in the special had been a favor to an old friend who wanted a few older women to fill out the selections.
After the show, my home life did not change much for the rest of the school year. Mother actually gained a little celebrity status in town, and more than a few of the women in town looking to find a sponsor took the time to talk to her in the evenings. I never heard the advice she gave, but Sara found a sponsor that July while getting coffee at the local café, and on August first there was a pickup at the television station. Just like that I was living alone with my mother and sister both gone to the stars.
The show might not have caused me much grief in town, but the pickups did. Suddenly I was considered a loser by several of my friends. They knew I had a qualifying score and more than a few got in my face about how I should have been the one to take at least Sara off the planet. I always ended up shaking my head at that. Sara and I got along well as siblings, but I had no interest in having her as my lover and she was equally disinterested in being that close to her older brother. However, the bigger issue was that I was the only boy in the graduating class with a qualifying score. I soon discovered that this had changed everything as during the summer just about every girl in our graduating class attempted to seduce me. Sadly, many of them also started to ignore my classmates and seek any man or woman with a CAP score above six point seven and soon my relationships with my former friends were under considerable strain.
It finally came to a head when Chastity, the former girlfriend of our quarterback, and I ran into each other at the mall. I had been sitting at a table eating lunch when she walked up and before I could say more than 'hello' she was sitting in my lap and probing my mouth with her tongue.
Sadly, Chad had been visiting the mall at the same time with a group of his followers. Seeing the woman he considered 'his girl' giving another man a serious French kiss drove him berserk. He charged into the food court, actually ripping one chair from the floor while screaming he was going to kill me.
I am afraid that Chastity was unceremoniously dumped on the floor as I shot to my feet and whirled to see the charging madman that Chad had become. The only certainty at that moment was that I was going to be in the hospital if Chad hit me. He was a good seven inches taller than my five foot seven and probably outweighed me by eighty pounds as well.
My first move was to step back, but Chastity was still lying on the ground stunned and I promptly fell on my ass. It proved to be fortuitous that I had as Chad whipped the chair through the air.
The momentum of Chad's swing was strong enough to make him stumble into a table. I promptly rolled to my hands and knees and looked up to see two of his friends attempting to wrestle him down. One looked at me and screamed. "Run you idiot! I've never seen him this angry. Last time he got mad he fought some redneck and put the man in the hospital. He's madder now than he was then!"
Without really thinking about the fact that I was leaving Chastity behind I crawled a couple feet before bounding up and dashing off at fast as my legs could carry me. Behind me I could hear Chad continuing to scream.
In the end my dash for freedom saved me, but there were consequences. After I escaped Chad had administered several brutal kicks to his former girlfriend. Chastity would spend several weeks in the hospital healing a broken pelvis. Chad had to be wrestled down by three arriving police officers. He was later convicted of multiple counts of assault and sentenced to a long jail term. Unless the Sa'arm took three times the predicted time to arrive, he will still be in jail when they reach Earth.
I did visit Chastity in the hospital about a week after the incident. It took a while because I wanted to meet with her alone, but finally her parents both returned to work and I was able to sneak in. She offered a sorrowful smile as I stepped into the room and pushed the door slightly closed.
"I chose a really bad moment to make my play didn't I?" she said.
I sighed and nodded as I walked over to the one chair in the room and sat down. "It was also a bit more than I wanted right now. The whole concubine thing doesn't feel right to me. It's a lot like slavery."
Chastity giggled for a moment before coughing in pain. "Like? I'd say that the description makes it pretty much a form of slavery for the concubines. But look at the alternatives. Most of the decent men, the ones who will care for a woman and treat her right, are going to have qualifying scores. And worse the Sa'arm are going to arrive. I'm sure that people will say that we can fight them off, and with the billions of humans and our natural fighting instinct I believe them, but the cost will be too high in my opinion."
"Mine too. Honestly, I don't mind the idea of going to the stars and having companions, I just want them to be friends who join in my travels because they like me, and you never gave me a chance to be a friend."
Chastity frowned for a moment, but then nodded. "You're right, I just jumped into your lap and started making out. I'm sorry."
"I am too." Just then we could hear voices in the hallway. Several of Chastity's friends had arrived and I decided it was time to retreat. I stood up and stepped toward the door.
"Seb?" Chastity asked. "Did I have a chance before Chad ruined it for both of us?"
I paused for a moment before offering the faintest of nods. I could hear Chastity stifle a sob as I stepped through the door and immediately ran into Joyce, Chastity's best friend.
Joyce's right hand lashed out and my head rocked back "I see the coward came to see the consequences of not standing and fighting!" she screamed.
I stepped away from her. Joyce was leading a group of seven girls and all of them looked at me like I was lower than dog feces. Rather than defend myself I turned and quickly left the hospital.
I like to think that Chastity defended me to her friends, but my continued refusal to fall for their seduction games turned the ones that knew me against me. Soon the other girls in the region actually took to spitting on me. If a parent was around the excuse they used was that I should have stayed there and fought with Chad to protect Chastity, but it was fairly clear they were more upset that I would not select them as possible concubines.
Even my former friends got in the act, although for a different reason. Most of them had average scores around five and found dates almost impossible to obtain in the post Average Joes world. As I was well known for ignoring the many girls chasing after me they started to envy me and the envy quickly grew into hate. With my status in town in the toilet thanks to my failure to protect Chastity, they took to ambushing me in groups. They never brought weapons so I fought back with punches and kicks, but these attacks were about punishment rather than fighting fair, and while I never had to visit the hospital, I ended up dragging myself through my front door ten nights in a row thanks to boys I had grown up with and played with.
I had suffered enough in town thanks to my well-known CAP score. My high school grades had been solid enough to gain me acceptance to multiple colleges and with my hometown turning against me, I revisited my college applications and enrolled for winter session at San Diego State in California. It was far enough from my hometown that no one would know me and I hoped that I could just blend in and heal emotionally.
For three years my plan worked. I attended classes for a double major of history and civil engineering. The combination had just about everyone at the university annoyed, but the money I had gained by selling the family home provided more than enough money so I was not working and could take the heavy class loads.
.... There is more of this story ...